The history of the diamond industry is full of conflicts, unregulated labor and monopolies. Not only that, but these sparkling gems require billions of years in the Earth’s deep recesses to be compressed under tremendous pressure and heat before they can be processed into jewelry or industrial machinery – hence their extreme rarity and price.
As a result, scientists are trying to find a viable method for creating diamonds in a laboratory that is cheaper, faster and more ethical than traditional diamond hunting.
Now researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) and RMIT University have developed a method that can create diamonds in minutes at room temperature, something that has never been done before.
“Natural diamonds typically form over billions of years, at a depth of about 1
Using a new method they describe in their study published in Small, the researchers synthesized two types of diamonds: the common type used for jewelry and a type of diamond called Lonsdaleite, which is theoretically harder than a cubic diamond but found only in graphite. meteorites.
To create the diamond, the glass carbon is compressed to extreme pressures. Glassy carbon is a form of carbon without crystals that, when compressed into diamond anvil cells, can form diamond veins.
Diamond has been synthesized in laboratories since H. Tracy Hall achieved the first commercially successful synthesis in 1954, but the process is extremely expensive and requires both intense pressure and extremely high temperatures. By changing the way the pressure is applied, the researchers found that high temperatures may not be needed in the end.
The twist in history is how we apply pressure. In addition to very high pressures, we allow carbon to experience something called “shear” – which is like a torsional or sliding force. We believe that this allows carbon atoms to move in place and shape Lonsdale and a plain diamond, ”said Professor Bradby.
It has not yet been proven that the process produces significant amounts of diamond. The results show that both diamond and lonsdalite can be synthesized at room temperature, but more work now needs to be done to improve the process. Both materials are extremely useful in a variety of industries, from cutting superhard materials to biomedical applications that include sensing and drug delivery. If they can be produced in large enough quantities, this can have huge consequences.
“Lonsdaleite has the potential to be used to cut superhard materials on mining sites,” said Professor Bradby.
“Creating more than this rare but extremely useful diamond is the long-term goal of this work.”